Black Businesses Receive Tech Industry Push Ahead Of Holiday Shopping Bonanza

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt Black-owned businesses a tough hand. Stifled by stay-at-home orders, on-again off-again store closures and stricter limits occupancy limits, many businesses are struggling to outlast the seemingly unending virus outbreak. 

Although they’ve rebounded slightly in recent months, Black-owned stores have experienced the greatest decline this year, plummeting from 1.1 million businesses in February to 640,000 in April—a 41% drop.

But spurred by a national movement to support Black businesses, which kicked off this summer, a new number of corporations are taking small steps to put the Black in Black Friday.

Black Friday online sales pulled in a record $7.4 billion in 2019— the second largest online shopping day ever and a 19.6% increase over the previous year—while the holiday season overall generated more than $72 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales for this Black Friday are projected to generate $10.3 billion.

The surge in digital spending over the holiday season and the heightened visibility that’s been awarded to small businesses through corporate sponsorships could have a considerable impact on Black businesses in particular, sustaining them through the a few more months of the pandemic.

Facebook, for one, launched its #BuyBlackFriday initiative and a corresponding toolkit and gift guide in October as part of a broader three-month campaign to buttress small businesses during the holiday season.

The gift guide features products from Black-owned businesses and was curated alongside the U.S. Black Chambers and several corporate partners. 

“Black-owned businesses have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, closing at twice the rate of other small businesses,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a blog post announcing the initiative. She added, “But we know that millions of people want to help.”

The campaign runs through Black Friday on November 27, a symbolic starting gun for the holiday shopping season.

More recently, Google partnered with Grammy-winning musician Wyclef Jean and the U.S. Black Chambers to promote its #BlackOwnedFriday campaign, an effort to make November 27 “Black-owned Friday” and galvanize shoppers to buy Black beyond the Thanksgiving weekend.

The tech giant has also showcased Black-owed businesses on its social platforms since mid-October and now allows users to find nearby stores that identify as Black-owned through its search engine.

“I’ve seen firsthand the strain and struggle that Black-owned businesses face,” Jean said in a statement. “For many of them, this holiday season will be critical to their survival.”

TikTok, the latest viral social media platform, threw its weight behind Black-owned businesses months after facing censorship allegations from Black creatives in June. Earlier this month, the video sharing platform, which has about 200 million monthly active users in the U.S., launched Support Black Businesses, a digital hub to amplify Black entrepreneurs. 

TikTok also announced #ShopBlack, an in-app campaign that allows users to create videos spotlighting their favorite Black-owned businesses or to share their experience as a Black entrepreneur.

As small businesses reel from the pandemic’s economic disruption, many

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Dhaka traders eye winter clothing sale bonanza to blunt pandemic blow

Those selling shirts, pants, T-shirts at the city pavements around the year, have changed their collection to colourful winter garments. Unable to overlook their beckoning, pedestrians stop for a while and skim through the winter clothes.

There is no uptick in sale just yet, said the traders, who had suffered a slump during Pahela Baishakh, Eid, Puja and other festivals this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Md Hanif, who was selling sweaters for adults at the north gate of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque alongside a few other hawkers, said he sold clothes worth Tk 800 on Saturday.

To make a reasonable profit he needed to sell clothes worth Tk 9,000 daily.

“These days I can’t sell enough clothes to match my investment,” he said. Hanif brought the winter clothes two weeks ago.

Rafiqul Islam, a private company executive, had no plan to buy winter clothes now, but he could not help a quick look at Hanif’s collection. “We’ll need these in a few days anyway,” Rafiqul said, after buying two sweaters. 

The wind becomes chilly in rural areas at the end of the Bengali month of Hemanta. For Dhaka, a concrete jungle, it takes time for the cold weather to set in. People still have some time left to start wearing warm clothes.

As their sale during the festive seasons of Eid and Puja suffered a slump driven by the coronavirus pandemic, sellers are expecting to make it up in the winter season.

Shops in Dhaka New Market, Bangabazar, Gulistan, Paltan, Malibagh, Mouchak and other shopping malls have begun to put winter clothes on display.

Pavements are buzzing with traders and hawkers boasting a wide range of colourful sweaters, jackets, gloves and mittens and monkey-caps.

Some of the traders are storing the winter garments now as they plan to bring those for sale when the frost hits the city.

The price of winter garments will go up this year as production dropped this season with the companies facing difficulties in importing fabric, thread and other accessories in time due to the pandemic, the traders said.

Though they are hoping to make a brisk business, the sellers are also worried about the possibilities of an intensified outbreak hitting the number of customers during winter.

Md Faruk brought shoes made of cloth, socks and caps for children at Gulistan last week. His products are priced between Tk 150 and Tk 250.

“There’s no sale now. I hope people will buy once the winter sets in,” he said.

“It felt a little cold last week and many of the sellers brought winter clothes. But now the weather is hot again and there’s almost no business. Once in a while, one or two customers show up. I’ve begun selling warm clothes but not making a good profit,” said Shahadat Hossain, who was selling sweater for children at the west side of the Baitul Mukarram mosque.

Prices have shot up this season, he said. The sweaters he was selling at Tk 300 this year

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